Govt dismisses Shehbaz’s claim of legal action against Daily Mail


–Shahzad Akbar says PML-N president merely filed a complaint, didn’t refute report’s contents

–SAPM challenges Shehbaz to sue him in British court, reiterates offer to testify against him

ISLAMABAD: The government on Sunday downplayed the claims of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif pertaining to legal action against British newspaper Daily Mail over an investigative report which outlines his alleged corruption.

Addressing a press conference in the federal capital, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said that the PML-N president had not filed a legal suit against the British newspaper, rather he had filed an official complaint, stating that the report was “gravely defamatory and politically motivated”.

He said that the complaint issued through London-based legal firm Carter-Ruck Solicitors did not reject the contents of the report nor did it mention any case filed against the British publication. “Not one word in the story was refuted,” he said.

“According to Shehbaz’s own law firm, no case has been initiated against the British publication as yet. They complained to the Mail on Sunday saying, ‘We are thinking of filing a case against you.’ This is not a lawsuit. Going to court is initiating a lawsuit,” he added. He further said that if Shehbaz believes that he is in the right, he should go to court.

Talking about the contents of the complaint, the special assistant said that Shehbaz had stated in his complaint that the newspaper’s report was against public’s interest. Pointing out the inadequacy of the statement, he demanded clarification over it. He also challenged the PML-N president to make his complaint public.

He said that David Rose, the reporter behind the story, had already had stated that he would stick to his story. He added that although the story lacked Shehbaz’s comments, it did include his son’s version and the reporter had also contacted his office.

Akbar highlighted that upon the publication of the report, Shehbaz had vowed to take him to court but had backed away from his promise. He once again reiterated his offer of appearing before the court to prove Shehbaz’s alleged corruption.

“I can reveal 50-100 times more things than this story, come to court. I am feeling left out. You sent a legal notice to the Mail, send me one too. I have packed my suitcase and I am ready to appear in court in London, where you likely would not go, and I will stand there and tell the truth about what you have done,” he added.

The story published earlier this month claimed that Shehbaz, the former chief minister of Punjab, had embezzled funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the 2005 earthquake victims. It quoted Assets Recovery Unit chief Shahzad Akbar and a few other individuals — none of whom were in an official position.

The story was quickly refuted by the PML-N and the party had insisted that it was published “on the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan”. DFID had also rejected the report, saying that the body’s “robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud”.

On Saturday, reports emerged that the PML-N president had taken legal action against the British newspaper and a press release was issued in this regard as well. However, hours after the issuance of the press release, the reporter said that while Shehbaz claims that he was not the chief minister during the 2005 earthquake, the alleged thefts from the quake relief fund were in 2009 and 2011.